Singapore—In a response to Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat’s troll on the national Budget on Tuesday, February 18, lawyer and People’s Voice leader Lim Tean said that the Budget “grossly underestimates Covid-19’s damage to our economy” and expressed concern over the fate of small and medium-sized business owners, whom he said employs up to 70 percent of Singaporeans.
Mr Lim perceives that the Government has not acted decisively amid the economic fallout due to the Covid-19 outbreak, saying that provisions in the budget for businesses are inadequate.
“It is pitifully little for the situation we encounter. It is a tepid response, very much in line with how they have dealt with this crisis so far long – not decisive.
And, I’m afraid to say this, I think this budget, with its pathetic support for local businesses, is going to cause great damage to our economy down the road.
They allotted four billion for the stabilization and support scheme. In 2009, when the financial crisis…hit, the government pumped in S$13.7 billion, which was equivalent to 4.6 percent of the GDP then.
The S$4 billion that they are pumping in today to support this struggling economy in the midst of a crisis, that does not even amount to 0.8 percent of the GDP. Are they suggesting that this crisis is so much lesser than what we experienced in 2009?”
He pointed out that the Government will give an eight percent offset for wages to businesses for three months, but with some businesses, losses are as much as 50 percent.
While Mr Lim mentioned that the GST would not go up this year, as per Mr Heng’s announcement on Tuesday, he suggested that the GST be lowered to from seven to five percent, with complete GST exceptions for food and medicine which he said is in line with other advanced nations.
The People’s Voice leader said, “It is important that we do not allow our self-employed, our small businesses and medium enterprises to fail.” These SMEs make up 99 percent of all businesses in the country and employ up to 70 percent of Singaporeans.
He asked, “how can we let them fail?”
He mentioned micro-businesses in particular, which employ 0 to 9 employees, and called them “the future of our country, growth centers for innovation and creativity.”
Mr Lim’s bottom line is that the livelihoods of Singaporeans will be affected if SMEs are allowed to fail. And if necessary, he believes even the country’s reserves should be tapped to prevent SMEs from failing.
“Small businesses will always have a big part of People’s Voice thinking about how our economy should be shaped. I have been working now for 30 years. For the greater part of that time, I have been a lawyer but, I’ve also been a businessman, managing my own company for close to 10 years. And, I know in tough times, how hard it is for that business owner to find the money to pay rental and salaries at the end of the month. I know how difficult it is.
But, we have leaders who have never run a business in their life, never have to worry about how their staff are going to be paid, who are always fed from that iron rice bowl. But for the majority of us, we do not have that luxury.
And at a time like this, you need Government to be the prime combatant against this economic crisis. Because only Government can do it. And we have the means to do it, my fellow Singaporeans. We have one of the largest reserves – according to some sources around $1 trillion. And that is the peoples’ money.
And we were always told that we needed reserves to prepare for the rainy day if not this point in time is not a rainy day, I don’t know what that is. It is not only a rainy day, I just (sic) thunderstorm, a raging thunderstorm. And there’s no end, there’s no sight of the end of the rain.
It is the time when we should be using our reserves to ensure that no deserving Singaporean goes under. And that is not an act of charity by the government. That is a social duty of government.”
He then outlined what his party would do if they were the ones in power.
“If People’s Voice was in government today we would set up an emergency fund that all self-employed and small businesses would be able to tap into. Because these are the most affected people. And when you help your people to survive, these loans will be repaid gratefully. And everyone can prosper and thrive.
There’s a lot more the government should be doing and has not done, instead it has embarked on the gimmicky Budget giving out a lot of goodies everywhere because elections are around the corner.
But, it is not solving the most immediate problem which is this devastating crisis which has befallen our economy and many of our businesses.”
Mr Lim said he would be addressing more parts of the Budget in the coming days. —/TISG